Church: a Spirit-filled community, not (just) organised

By Andy O'Connell


When I started full-time employment in Oxfordshire Community Churches in 1995, I was taken on as effectively an Operations Director (although we didn't use that term then). We talked instead about the gift of 'steersman' or 'pilot' - a word with nautical roots that appears in 1 Co 12.28 and is variously translated leadership, administration, guidance and governing.

Appointing my sort of role was quite a new thing in the emerging British charismatic movement, and we wondered how it worked to be a people that were led by the Holy Spirit, and yet were also organised!

With Steve Thomas, my then boss, we joked about writing a book called "Administration for cloud-followers", referencing the people of God in the Exodus who followed closely the cloud and fire of the Holy Spirit as it he led them through the desert. We were concerned that we didn't lose the liberty and freedom of following the Holy Spirit, even as we saw the need to develop some systems and structures to facilitate that growth - a trellis for the growing vine, if you will!

We still want to be a church that asks that sort of question! Despite systems and structures, policies and procedures that are necessary and important in today's world - and there are lots! - we want to a church that first and foremost asks "what does God want?" and "What is the Holy Spirit saying to us?" We ask that collectively (as church) and personally (as individuals).

Animated by the Holy Spirit

Theologians would agree that the birth of the church was at that first Pentecost, after Jesus' death and resurrection. In Acts 2 we read about the Holy Spirit being poured out, the strange gift of tongues surprising the crowd, and hundreds of people turning to Christ. A radical church community was birthed (Acts 2:42-46), to which people were added daily (2:46) and a powerful and ongoing experience of the Holy Spirit led them into mission, into the world, into adventure (the rest of Acts!).

In OCC, we seek to live as a Spirit-animated community, in which the leading and shaping of the Holy Spirit is vital in our community, worship, mission, discipleship and leadership.

In discipleship, as each of cooperates with the Holy Spirit, allowing him to grow godly and Christlike fruit in our lives (Gal 5:22-23)

In worship, as we come together each with our contributions and gifts. In the words of 1Co14, "each of us has a…" part to play. More on this in blogs on participation, tongues and good order, and on having no plan!

In community, as we invite the Holy Spirit to help us love one another. In a multi-generational, multi-cultural, multiple socioeconomic background community, getting on together isn't always easy - but it is God's plan, and he sends HS to help us.

In mission, which takes us back to Acts 1, where Jesus explain why he is going to send HS: "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere."

In leadership, as we take time to listen to God, study his word, weigh prophetic words and together seek to find the mind of God. We're not a church governed mostly by policy and procedure, but by the living and animating word of God.


What does this mean for you? Do you know that the Holy Spirit has filled you? How does he animate your daily life, decision-making and engagement with the world? What can you do to welcome more of his 'animation'?


Part of a blog series exploring our convictions on church